Former Ukrainian captives have recounted their horrifying tales of torture and abuse suffered during their time in custody at a detention facility in south-western Russia.
A dozen ex-detainees who were released in prisoner exchanges revealed disturbing accounts of physical and psychological mistreatment by Russian officers and guards at the Pre-Trial Detention Facility Number Two in Taganrog, 70 miles from occupied Mariupol in Ukraine.
The narratives collected during an extensive investigation form a disturbing pattern of extreme violence and ill-treatment within the facility.
The testimonies included allegations of daily beatings, electric shocks, threats, intimidation, and inadequate medical care.
This facility, which was previously used solely for holding Russian prisoners, has been shrouded in secrecy since the beginning of the “special military operation”.
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Artem Seredniak, 27, a senior lieutenant, was released from Taganrog after almost 12 months of captivity on May 6.
He described being transported to the detention centre tied to his fellow prisoners in a “human centipede” formation.
During his time in captivity, he said he was beaten often by baton-wielding guards, interrogated in his underwear and electrocuted in his back, neck and groin, and told he and his comrades would “rot there until the end of their lives”.
He reported that the Russian guards “wouldn’t stop beating you” until you had told them what they wanted to hear, such as admitting to personally telling his forces to kill civilians.
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Iryna Stohnii, a 36-year-old senior combat medic at the 56th Brigade also detained at Taganrog, described the detainees as “constantly malnourished”.
“They didn’t feed us,” she told the BBC. “They didn’t even let us go outside… We could only see the sky through bars in the windows.”
Ms Stohnii said other female detainees were forced to strip down and later mocked for their bodies.
“Apart from rape, they did everything with us,” she said.
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Ilia Mykhalchuk, 36, a Ukrainian soldier who spent six months as a POW of the Wagner Group after being captured in the besieged city of Bakhmut in February, described further atrocities in an interview with The Washington Post.
As a mercenary outfit known to violate the laws of war, Wagner treatment included botched amputations and psychological abuse.
Mr Mykhalchuk said, given his less senior position in the 67th Mechanised Brigade, Wagner had no use for his military intelligence, so they simply tortured him for the sake of it.
“They were just playing with us, the way a cat plays with a mouse — when he catches it before he kills it,” he said.
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